Brett Favre is on pace to have just 16 interceptions, his lowest total in four years. That's encouraging news after he led the league with a career-high 29 last season. Doubly encouraging is the Packers are second in the circuit with an average of 252 net passing yards per game. A somewhat tempered Favre has been more reliant on the underneath pass routes and checkdowns but with mixed results, thanks to a bevy of drops.
Donald Driver has tailed off of late, in part because of a side injury sustained in Week 4, but leads the team with 26 receptions. Second-round draft pick Greg Jennings, with 20 catches, is on track to become the Packers' most productive rookie receiver and has flashed big-play capabilities with an average of 18.2 yards per catch and three touchdowns.
The possible one-year league suspension hanging over Koren Robinson, who's in the process of appealing, doesn't bode well for the depth of the receiving corps, especially with Robert Ferguson out indefinitely with a foot injury. Little by little, the offensive line is jelling with three new starters on the interior, including two rookie guards. Favre has been sacked only twice in the last three games.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
Just when the assumption was made that the offense was out of the woods after Ahman Green made it all the way back from a season-ending ruptured thigh last October by the end of the preseason, the four-time Pro Bowl halfback has hurt matters in the early going. He's missed the last two games because of sore hamstrings brought on by the leg injury. The jury is out on whether Green can be 100 percent healthy again by the end of the season, which limits how much the coaches can use him and ultimately affects a game plan that is supposed to be rooted in the run. Green's better days are behind him. A chunk of his 110 yards in the season-opening blowout loss came in the final quarter when Chicago was shading toward the pass. Green is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
The team traded Samkon Gado, last year's rushing leader, to Houston early in the season, acquiring fellow back Vernand Morency in return. Morency had a nice 99-yard effort in the Week 4 loss at Philadelphia, but he lost the starting job in Green's absence because of fumbling problems the last two games. Noah Herron seized the opportunity that came to him in the last outing with a 20-carry, 106-yard performance, but he might be nothing more than a third-down back.
After an inauspicious start with the new zone-blocking scheme, the line is progressing in creating running lanes, but a capable, dependable back is needed to lift the Packers out of their No. 27 league ranking (89.2 rushing yards per game).
PASS DEFENSE: D-minus
How the supposedly mighty passing defense has fallen. After leading the league last season -- though that was deceptive because most teams ran at will against the Packers in protecting large leads -- Green Bay is the bottom feeder with six weeks in the book. The Packers have allowed an average of 275.8 net yards per game.
The secondary was stacked up to be the strength of the defense, in light of the free-agent signings of Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson and strong safety Marquand Manuel to go with incumbents Al Harris at the other cornerback spot and second-year Nick Collins at free safety. Instead, all four of them have been responsible for a litany of communication and coverage breakdowns, which have occurred on a weekly basis.
The Packers have given up an outrageous 35 pass plays of at least 16 yards. Harris raised a stink in the off-season and boycotted all voluntary workouts in demanding a new contract, which isn't likely to come his way by season's end unless he can make an about-face and eliminate an unusual rash of coverage lapses and holding penalties.
General manager Ted Thompson's tolerance of the inconsistent, penalty-marred play by 2004 first-round draft pick Ahmad Carroll ran out after the fourth game, when Thompson released the nickel back. One of the few bright spots for the defense has been the pass rush exhibited by end Aaron Kampman, who has 5 1/2 sacks, one short of his career high.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus
The additions of free-agent tackle Ryan Pickett and weak-side linebacker A.J. Hawk, the No. 5 overall draft pick this year, have bolstered the defense's run-stopping ability. The instinctive Hawk is starting to come into his own after being taken to task in the preseason for not making the impact-type plays for which he was highly touted in college at Ohio State. Hawk has a team-leading 31 solo tackles and has 42 total tackles, just behind middle linebacker Nick Barnett's club-best 46.
To a lesser degree than defending the pass, the Packers have been susceptible to giving up the big run in critical situations, however. They've allowed an average of 102.2 rushing yards per game to rank in the top half of the league but have yet to be gashed for a 100-yard game by one back.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus
The big proving ground for kicker Dave Rayner and punter Jon Ryan, both newcomers to Green Bay, still is in the offing with the weather turning harsher. Up until now, each has been more than serviceable in relying on strong legs.
Rayner has quieted the skeptics who wondered whether a kickoff specialist with Indianapolis last season could handle the full-time kicking duties and make fans forget about the departed Ryan Longwell at the same time. Rayner equaled a team record shared by Longwell with a 54-yard field goal at Philadelphia and has connected on eight of his 11 attempts.
Ryan has pounded away for a gross average of 47.4 yards. However, the Canadian import is prone to either out-kick his coverage or get no air under the kick, which has resulted in a sharp discrepancy with a lowly net average of 34.6.
The return units are a work in progress. The free-agent signing of Robinson after Week 1 was stamped as a big upgrade for kickoff returns, but last year's Pro Bowl choice in that realm has averaged a pedestrian 21.1 yards. Likewise, Woodson, who hadn't been featured on punt returns since his final year at Michigan in 1997, hasn't provided a huge spark, averaging 8.9 yards.
It would be easy to cut Mike McCarthy some slack because he's in his first year as a head coach at any level and was charged with overseeing the league's youngest team, which presently has 17 rookies and first-year players. However, after doing some arm twisting to get Favre to commit for another season, bringing about an improvement from the disastrous 4-12 season in 2005 was expected off the bat for McCarthy. Instead, the 1-4 Packers are headed down the same path and could finish with a worse record if the necessary adjustments don't pan out coming out of the bye week.
The team lacks a killer instinct, squandering winnable games against New Orleans and St. Louis at home, and Philadelphia on the road. The communication problems that have been prevalent on defense, which have resulted in confusion with substitutions and having too many or too few players on the field, is an early strike against McCarthy, who's on a short leash to begin with having a three-year contract. The multitude of explosive pass plays given up by the defense further undermines the credibility of first-year coordinator Bob Sanders.
While McCarthy seemingly has gotten through to Favre to cut down on the mindless downfield throws into multiple coverage, the inability to get the high-priority running game on track isn't doing the 37-year-old quarterback any favors. Favre has racked up 203 pass attempts and is on pace to finish the season with 644, 37 more than his career and league high last season.